The object of the National Capital Plan, which is prepared and administered by the National Capital Authority, is 'to ensure that Canberra and the territory are planned and developed in accordance with their national significance'.
The NCA regulates development in the National Capital through the works approval process
Do I need a Works Approval?
In accordance with the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988 (Cwth) (the PALM Act) [External Link], the NCA is required to approve all ‘works’ within the Designated Areas. Any alteration to buildings or structures, demolition, landscaping or excavation works in these designated areas require the prior written approval of the NCA or 'Works Approval'. There are no exemptions or qualifications to the requirement for works approval under the legislation.
In summary, if the answer to the following two questions is ‘Yes’:
- Is my proposal within the definition of ‘works’?
- Is my proposal located within the Designated Areas?
than works approval from the NCA will be required.
The NCA's role is to assist applicants through a process of negotiation and design development to achieve outcomes appropriate to those areas which embody the special characteristics of the national capital. The works approval process is detailed here.
The PALM Act defines ‘works’ as:
a) the construction, alteration, extension or demolition of buildings or structures;
c) tree felling; or
but excludes anything done inside buildings or structures.
This includes proposals ranging from a site redevelopment to the removal of a single tree or excavation required to install underground services. Temporary ‘works’ such as the installation of temporary signs or fencing also require works approval from the NCA. It is also important to note that the PALM Act does not require the NCA to approve internal works.
The definition of ‘works’ is intentionally broader than the requirements to approve ‘development’ in state and territory planning jurisdictions in order to prevent eyesores, poor urban design outcomes and ensure the Designated Areas are of a quality that reflects their importance. This is in accordance with primary purpose of the National Capital Plan.
Some of the most common types of works that require a Works Approval are:
- constructing or altering the external of a building
- removal of a dead or dangerous tree
- excavation for telecommunications installation
- installation of a sign
Even minor matters may need a works approval. The onus is on you to find out whether an application is required. If temporary structures are related to an event and are in place for less than 10 days, the NCA’s Events team will facilitate the works approval.
Please contact the NCA on 02 6271 2888 should you need assistance.
The National Capital Plan sets out the broad planning framework for all of the Australian Capital Territory, and provides detailed planning policies and guidelines for areas designated as having the special characteristics of the national capital. These are termed the Designated areas.
Any alteration to buildings or structures, demolition, landscaping or excavation works in these designated areas require the prior written approval of the NCA or 'Works Approval'.
The applicant may be required to provide evidence of environmental clearance or approval from the Department of the Environment and Heritage before the NCA will give its approval to development proposals on:
- Commonwealth land;
- Designated areas;
- Sites that may have endangered and protected species of flora and fauna, or some other environmental value (including heritage); or
- Development that has a significant impact on the heritage values of a 'place' entered in the Commonwealth or National Heritage list.
The NCA's consideration of such proposals is based on the relevant provisions of the National Capital Plan.
The NCA's role is to assist applicants through a process of negotiation and design development to achieve outcomes appropriate to those areas which embody the special characteristics of the national capital.
The 'Designated Areas' are shown in the map above and include all major approach routes to Canberra, the Parliamentary Zone, Lake Burley Griffin and Surrounding Parklands, the Australian National University, Russell Defence Precinct, Duntroon and ADFA. The Designated Areas also include the Inner Hills of the National Capital including Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie , Black Mountain, O'Conner Ridge, Red Hill, Oakey Hill, Mount Painter, The Pinnacle and Stromlo Forest.